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Dear Marcus: A Letter to the Man Who Shot Me Hardcover – May 1, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Inspiring.” —Lorrie Moore, The New York Review of Books

“As I started reading Dear Marcus, I found I couldn’t put it down. This is a compelling marriage of remembrance and forgiveness, absolution and compassion, cynicism and understanding.” —Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore

“Written with passion, honesty, humor, and a stubborn, rebellious optimism, Dear Marcus is like nothing I’ve ever read. When a bullet in the back told Jerry McGill not to go on, Jerry went on—smiling.” —Shalom Auslander, author of Hope: A Tragedy
“It’s hard to remember how out of control our cities were back in the 1970s and ’80s. If you want a firsthand account, there’s no better place to turn to than Dear Marcus. But Dear Marcus is more than that: It’s an incredibly intense story of triumph over tragedy that can inspire people dealing with any sort of challenge in their lives. It’s rare to find a book that speaks to you on the most personal level while illustrating much bigger themes, and is so compelling to read to boot.” —Dalton Conley, dean of social sciences at New York University and author of Honky

A moment of senseless violence transforms a young man in this inspiring memoir of disability. In 1982, McGill was 13 years old and living in a Manhattan housing project when he was randomly shot in the back by an assailant who was never found (he dubs the unknown gunman ‘Marcus’). The wound left him a near quadriplegic, and the once athletic boy faced an agonizing struggle to recover some bodily function, and adjust to losing most. McGill takes an unsparing though humorously insightful look at the frustrations and humiliations imposed by his handicap and at the permanent rifts his family suffered from the strain….McGill moves from bitter contempt for his attacker to a deeper analysis of the ghetto culture of violence, fatherlessness, and misguided machismo that victimized him—and eventually to understanding and forgiveness." Publishers Weekly

An inspirational memoir by a writer who refuses to be defined by his paralysis, as he comes to terms with the unknown man who shot him.” Kirkus Reviews

"A powerful book." The Oregonian

“An unforgettable and intriguing journey . . . Violence, hope, despair, forgiveness, anger, and living with a disability are explored both lightly and deeply, humorously and profoundly, and always honestly.” Library Journal (starred review)

"Thoughtful and profound...written in gritty and brave language...McGill presents the pivotal moments of his life with the clarity of a cinematographer's lens." —Shelf Awareness

Dear Marcus is my current favorite book….This is a literary page-turner that explores the reverberations of an action and a moment, the ways in which perpetrators and victims are connected…From the packaging, to the insights, to the defiance and challenge of assumptions, to the writing, this is a straight up gorgeous book.” –The Rumpus

About the Author

Jerry McGill is a writer and artist. He received a BA in English literature from Fordham University in the Bronx and a master's degree in education from Pacific University in Oregon. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First Edition edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993073
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #614,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Fairbanks Reader - Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At thirteen years old, Jerome (later known as Jerry) was shot in the back by an unknown perpetrator while walking with a friend in a bad neighborhood in New York City. Jerome's injury renders him a guadraplegic. This book is a letter to his perpetrator who he calls 'Marcus'. It is the story of Jerome's life and how his disability made him the man he becomes.

Jerome spent six months in St. Vincent's hospital after the shooting getting all kinds of treatment following his injury. Once released, his life takes on new meaning. Prior to his injury he saw promise in himself as a dancer or an actor and had dreams of attending one of the prestigious arts high schools in Manhattan. Following his injury he has to reevaluate his life and dreams.

With his disability, he becomes a mentor to others with disabilities, finding his own mentors along the way. He teaches drama, directs a travel program for the disabled, and travels the world himself. He even makes short films which is his real passion.

He writes openly and with poignant candor about his intimate relationships with women.

At times he is furious with Marcus but this anger subsides as Jerome sees all the strengths and abilities that have come to him through his own disability.

He questions Marcus throughout the book - who is he, why did he do this, what whas his life like, etc.

Ultimately, this is a book about thriving rather than surviving. The novel takes us to Jerome at 43 years old, a graduate of Fordham University and possessor of an MFA in writing. I wish him continued success and hope he breaks into the world of movies and Hollywood which is his ultimate dream.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A surprisingly quick, pleasant read--though much of DEAR MARCUS is gritty, frank, heart-wrenching, and violent. A nevertheless refreshing, clear-eyed look at life on the streets, in the ghetto, and in the hospital, circa 1980s, that is also transformative. As a quadriplegic person myself, what I personally appreciate most is that McGill's ultimate transcendence--physically, emotionally, socially, financially, etc.--doesn't derive simply from his inner strength and attitude ... not his natural charm and pluckiness alone (of which he has ample supplies). He's also plainly aware of and forthcoming about the debt he owes others. Not just the doctors and nurses and other medical professionals who helped heal him in the immediate aftermath of his shooting, but the other folks with disabilities who gave him a path back into society and showed him he still has value.

My only complaint about this short book: I wanted more. I look forward to a fuller sequel, or perhaps future fiction from this still nascent writer? I'll be keeping an eye out.

Miracle Boy Grows Up: How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity
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I just finished "Dear Marcus" by Jerry McGill and I have to say that it was one of the best books I have read in 2012. If I think forward to the NY Times Best Books of 2012 it is hard for me to imagine a list that does not include this book.

Jerry writes a book in the form in a letter to the unknown person who shot him in the back many years ago. That unfortunate event led to McGill being paralyzed and literally changed his life. The thing about this book that is amazing is that it gives hope to so many people who find themselves facing what must seem like insurmountable odds. McGill after much soul-searching decides to do everything humanly possible to overcome these odds and make for himself a great life. He gets involved in theater. He teaches. He enjoys what seem to be fairly descriptive sexual experiences (with an Australian gal). Overall he lives life to its fullest. And the book-albeit a super tough subject to deal with, is written in such a funny way that you can't help but laugh out loud several times. Overall I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
We have all had those defining moments in our lives where something happens and it changes our very perspective on life and what we believe our purpose to be. For Jerry McGill that event was being shot when he was just a young man, and through DEAR MARCUS he not only shares his story but addresses the shooter.

Because he didn't know who shot him, Jerry decided to name the individual Marcus and take us through not just how the incident happened but what has been the result of it. I read this book fascinated by the courage it takes to put yourself back in the time of your greatest tragedy, but also inspired by the way Jerry seeks to explain what the bullet took from him and what was gained.

It's not easy to see the good in situations like this, but somehow Jerry is able to let us know that he has moved into a new place in his life. A place where what happened to him doesn't define him and it also will not limit him. He didn't die that day long ago, and because of that he has to make the decision to really live.

DEAR MARCUS also allows the reader to understand something about themselves as well. Jerry is a new creature, someone separate from the person who was shot. In a really powerful way he outlines how he went from being Jerome to Jerry, and what just that simple "name change" means for him and the way he looks at his life moving forward.

There is also a great lesson in forgiveness and not allowing others to dictate the course of your life. Jerry is a creative individual who is finding outlets for his gifts and is able to let others see what is possible for them as well.

When I talk about defining moments and the lessons, I believe that those experienced by Jerry McGill will definitely give us pause when we begin to feel sorry for ourselves and doubt what can be. DEAR MARCUS is a testament of how life is and what we can do to make it better than anyone could ever imagine.
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